SPAIN is seeking to extradite York fraudster Paul Blanchard - but he has vowed to fight the move, claiming he was covertly working for Spanish intelligence in fighting terror during his involvement in a timeshare con.

The Press reported earlier this week how Blanchard, 73, was ordered at Teesside Crown Court on Monday to pay back more than £1 million under The Proceeds of Crime Act, relating to his involvement in a multi-million pound scam which spanned the UK, Spain, Gibraltar and Tenerife, for which he was jailed in 2008.

Now it has emerged that North Yorkshire Police arrested him earlier this year on behalf of the Spanish authorities, acting upon a European Arrest Warrant issued by a Madrid court in April.

The warrant alleged Blanchard, of St Oswald’s Court, Fulford, was involved in a ‘criminal organisation functioning in accordance with typical mafia techniques,’ which was allegedly led by Lebanese-born Mohamed Derbah.

It said the police investigation had begun in 1998 at the request of the British authorities in connection with John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, the alleged mastermind of the Brink’s-Mat robbery at Heathrow in 1983, in which 3,500 kg of gold bullion was stolen. Palmer was acquitted of handling stolen goods from the heist but later served eight years for timeshare fraud and was shot dead by a mystery gunman in 2015.

The warrant document said Derbah was a second-in-command to Palmer but later became ‘independent’.

It alleged Blanchard was ‘financial adviser’ of Derbah’s organisation until 2001 ‘and, as such, author of the business and money-laundering scheme of the organisation’.

It said he was accused of fraud, money laundering, forgery of credit cards, threats and coercion, and perverting the course of justice, which could be punished with prison sentences of up to 15 years.

But Blanchard’s barrister, George Hepburne Scott, claimed his client had been ‘sold down the river by the Spanish authorities’, to whom he ‘gave a wealth of information at considerable personal risk’.

He told The Press that his client had given evidence in good faith as a prosecution witness but had been included on an indictment as a means to force him to give further evidence in court.

He said that indictment had been struck down by the Spanish High Court and yet the Spanish seemed to be ‘trying again to use this self-same evidence’ to support the ‘extraordinary’ extradition application.

He said: “There is credible evidence from multiple sources that Mr Blanchard was indeed a covert intelligence operative who provided valuable information not only to Spanish intelligence but also to MI5 including in relation to matters of national security.

“It is frankly astonishing that the British and Spanish authorities seem content for all of this to play out in open court in this country with all of the potential embarrassment and difficulty that will cause.

“We will be arguing very strongly that this entire extradition case is a flagrant abuse of the court’s process.’

Blanchard said the Spanish authorities had approached him when he was working for Derbah and he agreed to work with them to fight the funding of international terrorism.

“I tipped them off about a terror network funded from the UK months before al-Qaeda bombed trains in Madrid in 2004, killing 191 people,” he said. “If Spain had acted on that information, those atrocities may never have happened.

“The Spanish authorities claim they never called me and I never called them but I have more than 30 recorded phone conversations with them.”

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “On Wednesday 2 May 2018, North Yorkshire Police arrested a 73-year-old man from York on behalf of Spanish authorities, after a European Arrest Warrant had been issued.”